Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Attorney Is Expected to Be Aware That Court Reporters Aren’t Provided—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
An attorney who found out when she came to court in December 2015, that there was no court reporter in the department and made a motion for a continuance so she could hire one, which was denied, yesterday had the bulk of her contentions in the Court of Appeal rejected because they were not corroborated by a reporter’s transcript.
The attorney, Grace E. Wilson of San Diego, appealed a civil harassment restraining order against her and an award of $1,500 in fees statutory attorney fees in favor of the prevailing party, Veada Reed. Wilson had apparently become convinced that Reed—whose daughter was on the same softball team as her own twin daughters—had made uncomplimentary remarks concerning her girls.
Wilson sent derogatory emails about Reed to others and on one occasion engaged in an oral confrontation with her.
Writing for the Fourth District’s Div. One, Justice Judith Haller said:
“Wilson contends the trial court erred by issuing the restraining order because (1) she did not get a fair hearing; (2) insufficient evidence supports the order; and (3) she fulfilled the terms of an offer the trial court made—that if she attended a court-approved anger management course within six months, the court would dismiss the case. These contentions fail, largely because Wilson—a licensed California attorney whom the trial court considered ‘very intelligent’—did not provide an appellate record sufficient to show error.”
Wilson contended on appeal that she lacked a reporter’s transcript because San Diego Superior Court Judge Tamila E. Ipema unreasonably denied her a continuance when she became there was no court reporter present. Haller responded:
“According to the court’s December 2 minute order, Wilson requested a continuance during the morning session ‘to allow time to hire [a] court reporter.’ The court denied the request because seven witnesses were present and because the court found that “Counsel are aware of the Court’s budget and that court reporters are no longer in civil departments since 2013.’ We defer to the trial court’s factual finding that attorneys who practice before that court are (or should be) aware of the court’s years-old policy stating court reporters are generally not provided in civil matters. We find the court’s stated reasons neither arbitrary nor capricious.”
At the hearing, Ipema told Wilson that she was issuing a temporary restraining order but if, after six-months she had completed a 12-session anger management class, she would dismiss the case. At a hearing in June, 2016, the judge found that Wilson had not complied with that condition because the courses she took were online and not those of a court-approved provider, proceeding to impose a one-year restraining order.
Haller agreed that Wilson had not satisfied the condition. She wrote:
“The court’s initial proposal that Wilson ‘go to,’ and subsequent order that she ‘attend,’ an anger management course clearly indicate the court intended for Wilson to obtain in-person counseling….”
The jurist went on to say:
“Wilson implies that because the list of anger management programs on the trial court’s website includes one online program, it was reasonable for her to interpret the court’s order as allowing her to attend an online program. The trial court found this argument unpersuasive because the online course was a parenting program that was not suitable for this case. We agree. Moreover, the fact that the other 51 programs on the list are not online strongly supports the conclusion Wilson was required to complete in-person counseling.”
“Finally, we find persuasive the trial court’s determination that Wilson ‘is a very intelligent individual who is a member of the California State Bar and a practicing attorney.’ If she had any question about the scope of the court’s order, she could easily have contacted the court and asked.”
Wilson argued that attorney fees were improperly awarded to Reed because the attorney who represented her, Gregory J. Cobb, was her cohabitant and father of her two children, who were covered by the restraining order. Haller said the contention was waived because it was not raised below.
She nonetheless addressed it, saying:
“Second, even if Wilson had not forfeited this challenge, it would fail on the merits because her analogy to self-represented attorneys or law firms is inapposite to an attorney representing a significant other. The dispositive issue in this context is whether there is an attorney-client relationship between the attorney and litigant in addition to their personal relationship….This record supports the trial court’s implicit finding that an attorney-client relationship existed between Reed and Cobb sufficient to justify an attorney fees award.”
The case is Reed v. Wilson, D070699
Wilson represented herself on the appeal and Cobb acted for Reed.
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